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GU freshmen start life on campus

Brad Tham plants a kiss on his daughter, incoming Gonzaga University freshman Lauren Tham, outside the St. Catherine-St. Monica residence hall complex at Gonzaga during freshman move-in Friday. (Jesse Tinsley)
Brad Tham plants a kiss on his daughter, incoming Gonzaga University freshman Lauren Tham, outside the St. Catherine-St. Monica residence hall complex at Gonzaga during freshman move-in Friday. (Jesse Tinsley)

Mini fridges, microwave ovens and printers collected in the grass outside of St. Catherine-St. Monica Hall on Friday ready to be hauled into dorms by incoming Gonzaga freshmen and their parents.

For the estimated 1,055 freshmen moving into dorms Friday morning, the buzz of a new adventure permeated the campus. Parents often described a mixture of pride and nostalgia. For the upperclassmen in charge of welcoming the new students, it was “organized chaos,” said Meghan Montelibano, public relations manager for orientation.

“I’m just as nervous as they are,” said Montelibano, a senior who spoke in front of the freshmen class Friday.

The incoming students checked into their halls Friday, met their roommates and prepared for orientation, a tradition playing out on college campuses across the Inland Northwest over the coming weeks. Gonzaga requires freshmen to live on campus for their first two years at the university, aiming to connect students as they adjust to life away from home. The sense of community is why some students chose Gonzaga in the first place, they say.

That was the case for Ryan Fox, an incoming freshman from Bellingham. He also liked Gonzaga because of its strong engineering program.

“He’s so excited,” said his mom, Lezlie Fox. “It’s a good next step.”

At the Crosby Student Center, speakers blasted music ranging from The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” to Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name,” as students learned about services provided by the school. Near the student center, U.S. Bank was helping students sign up for bank accounts.

The atmosphere is supposed to make new students feel as safe and welcome as possible, Montelibano said.

She said it’s important that students know “they’re not alone in this journey.”

Some students, like Kellee O’Toole of Portland, chose Gonzaga because of tradition.

“It’s a family school for me,” she said, adding that many family members on her father’s side of the family attended.

She’s excited to follow in their footsteps, she said.

Her mom, Darcy O’Toole, had mixed feelings about her daughter moving away: “I know I’m going to miss her, but she can’t miss on this opportunity.”

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